I suck at video games. And I don’t think this could have been made any more evident than by playing Moonscars on my Steam Deck this weekend.
This Metroidvania developed by Black Mermaid (published by Humble Games) is punishing. Super punishing! I’m usually not the biggest fan of Souls-likes, and I’ve never played a FromSoftware game longer than 10 minutes. And yet, I’ve had great fun for the few hours I have played.
Moonscars is a dark, gritty, depressing (in a good sense) and bloody game. It looks, sounds, and feels fantastic. The graphics feature a unique blend of pixel art that meets oil painting. Yes, I know this makes no sense. You have to see it in motion to understand.
Black Mermaid also nailed the weapon design. They feel fantastic to use. A two-handed hammer (a special attack) feels slow and clunky but deals heavy blows, while a sword is snappy and fast. You can interrupt the heavy attacks, which usually require a little build-up, by dashing. I don’t know how often this came in handy when I miscalculated the build-up time and was about to get destroyed. If you hit the timing right, you can parry and damage the opponents or dodge if you messed the timing up and try not to get hit.
As a Metroidvania meets Souls-like, you’re supposed to die often. Every death teaches you how to beat your opponents (Souls-like), and every new power unlocks a part of the map previously inaccessible (Metroidvania). But every death makes the game harder until you sacrifice a specific item that is hard to get. So you can’t sacrifice the item too often, and thus the game remains difficult.
Not everything is perfect, though. Sometimes the text on the Steam Deck is far too tiny and difficult to parse. And there are some weird design choices: I never seem to have enough magic points to use witchery. Then again, I’m only a few hours in and constantly use the magic points to heal.
Also, while I understand that you lose your passive upgrades upon death, you seem to lose them while progressing through the story. A logical explanation is part of the lore, but it still occasionally messes with the pacing.
Regardless of these issues, I enjoy the game very much. I’ll keep playing it over the next few days to see if I can progress. Because it’s really tough. And I really suck at it.
Oh, one more thing. There are cats in the game!!! Game of the year contender.